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Creative Economy and Culture. Challenges, Changes and Futures for the Creative Industries

By John Hartley, Wen Wen and Henry Siling Li, London, Sage, 2015, 264 pages, ISBN 9780857028785

The relationships between creative economy and culture are discussed in this book through three chapters: I The Challenges (positioning economy, culture and technology as parts producing the new 'big systemic picture' that enlighten the role of creative industries as generators of creative economy); II Forces and Dynamics of Change: The Three Bigs in Action (describing the scenes and actors leading to new systemic changes), and III Future Forming (With Three Buts) discussing possible developments, aspects of technical, political and knowledge control of cultural production and its economic aspects, and summarizing the previously mentioned arguments for 'future-forming').

Culture is interpreted as 'the mechanism for producing newness in conditions of uncertainty' (p. 5). Being the source of 'newness' and 'implemented novelty' (p. 14) culture appears to be extremely important to economy and technology. The source for such an understanding of culture is a systemic interpretation of the world in which we live, and which consists of 'concentric spheres: geosphere, biosphere, semiosphere and noösphere (knowledge sphere)'. The works of Vernadsky, Lotman and a number of other theoreticians cited here offer a way 'to conceptualize culture as an adaptive, interactive (communicative) system' (p. 23) that largely contributes to the overall systemic changes in societies and human life in general. Creativity is interpreted as a feature of semiotic and noetic (knowledge) systems 'which individuals use and make their own without being or owning their source' (p. 34). Such interpretation sees creativity as 'the production of newness in complex adaptive systems' (p. 35).

Whatever they may encompass (from arts to journalism) creative industries represent a type of production that is being developed through relationships established in a 'social network market', which belongs to the economy of attention, 'an economy of signals as much as of monetary values' (p. 51). In this respect it demands a convergence of cultural studies (semiotics, anthropology, media analyses and others) with economics. The research here is focused on problems at the intersection of culture, technology and economy. In a short historical overview the public function of creative and cultural practices is constantly reinvented for each new era. Creative industries are interpreted as 'social technology of modernization' (p. 60) and a need to make cultural and creative industries a policy priority is expressed (p. 64). Their development is further described in different countries and regions of the world. Creative industries already influence a systematization of countries into groups such as BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), MINT (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Turkey), etc. Four models of creative industries understood as producers of innovative outputs are identified: Creative Clusters, Creative Services, Creative Citizens and Creative Cities.

Creative processes are framed by the 'three bigs' - everyone, everything, and everywhere. These stand for overall communication within the creative processes that are developed from communication. Culture makes groups and these groups make knowledge. 'Groups learn and change in competition with other groups' (p. 210). They are organized in 'overlapping complexity' and individuals may belong to multiple groups (demes), simultaneously or successively. The authors clearly explain that 'Culture makes groups, groups make knowledge, but knowledge of the complexity of that arrangement makes for doubt, skepticism, relativism, multiple or ambiguous identities, and the need to be able to deal with difference and indeterminacy.' (p. 211) New analytical lenses are needed to understand and analyze the new systemic situation, and these are constructed through the 'three bigs': everyone (overall population included in creativity processes, following the individual interests and possibilities); everything (creativity extends from a specialist creative industries sector to all of the economy and to knowledge creative systems and their interactions); and everywhere (a planetary approach). The difficulties that such an approach meets in the present-day world are many, and may include technical, political and commercial controls, as well as economic, political and cultural divides (p. 215).

The authors of this book have tried to 'develop some simple models for the analyses of creativity in the context of contemporary global markets and digital mediated culture' (p. 209). They have illustrated the possibilities and needs of a new systemic approach to culture, economy and society in general. The policy aspects for such a new systemic approach have not been undermined and it is clearly stated that 'policy needs to move from a mechanical approach (engineered innovation in professional labs) to a probabilistic approach (population-wide random variation, institutionalized 'search' functions across groups and knowledge domains) in which 'everyone, everywhere and across all of the economy and culture is the participant' (p. 212).

This book opens a new perspective for the debate of cultural and creative industries. The analyses are based in a systemic approach incited by new technologies and digitalization processes. Instead of being discussed, analyzed and lived as a sector of creativity, culture appears to be its source and a source of a general systemic planetary change. In this respect cultural production is strongly related to knowledge production and deeply interwoven into the overall economic and social change everywhere. This is an inspiring view of creativity and culture: supported by new technologies and new knowledge they are understood as a chance for a new kind of development based on humankind's historical background and challenges of new views and possibilities.

Nada Svob-Djokic
Culturelink Team